We have divided our guide into two sections: the first part details how how anyone can use the media to help animals, and the last bit is all about securing media coverage for an event you're hosting, including how to prepare for a print, online, radio or TV interview.
Animal rights activism through the media
Everyone with access to a laptop or a mobile phone can achieve amazing things for the animals! If we work together we can give the vegan movement a respectable mainstream image and use all publicity generated to make the case for animal rights.
One way of doing this is keeping animal-friendly stories alive by sharing them and sending encouraging feedback to their authors. Email the article to your friends, family and strangers or give it a share on Facebook (such as on Vegan UK Activism), Twitter or other social media - you'd be surprised how far they can travel. Write an email to the reporter who wrote the positive piece highlighting how grateful you are that they took the time to write something so thoughtful and supportive of this important movement. You can find the contact information for journalists by googling their name or finding them on Twitter or LinkedIn. Many newspapers have set formats such as:
- firstname.lastname[at]dailystar.co[dot]uk or firstname.lastname[at]reachplc[dot]com
- firstname.lastname[at]express.co[dot]uk or firstname.lastname[at]reachplc[dot]com
- firstname.lastname[at]mirror.co[dot]uk; firstname.lastname[at]sundaymirror.co[dot]uk or firstname.lastname[at]reachplc[dot]com
- firstname.lastname[at]times.co[dot]uk; firstname.lastname[at]sunday-times.co[dot]uk; firstname.secondname[at]ft[dot]com (Financial Times).
If you spot a negative article, please alert us by emailing us at media[at]vegansociety[dot]com. You can also write a polite, factual and straightforward letter to the author, presenting the vegan perspective on the article in question. Please remember that an angry email will likely end up in the bin straight away and give the reporter an incentive to continue writing negative articles, so let's keep things friendly. You may also respond in a letter form, which may be published on the Letters page. Search for the contact details for the Letters team. Here are some for the nationals:
- guardian.letters[at]theguardian[dot]com; letters[at]guardian.co[dot]uk; observer.letters[at]observer.co[dot]uk; letters[at]observer.co[dot]uk
- dtletters[at]telegraph.co[dot]uk; stelegraph[at]telegraph.co[dot]uk
- letters[at]dailymail.co[dot]uk; letters[at]mailonsunday.co[dot]uk
- letters[at]sundaymirror.co[dot]uk; madeuthink[at]mirror.co[dot]uk; mailbox[at]mirror.co[dot]uk
- letters[at]thetimes.co[dot]uk; letters[at]sunday-times.co[dot]uk; stephen.bleach[at]sunday-times.co[dot]uk; letters.editor[at]ft[dot]com (Financial Times).
If you struggle to find contact details, get in touch and we'll help. Please avoid sharing negative articles so as not to give them more views, unless it's to urge people to contact the newspaper (provide the email address for the Letters team if so).
If you want to be even more proactive, sign up to free media alerts at www.dawnwatch.com/subscribe to receive links to articles about veganism and animals rights. Dawn regularly emails around the links to both positive and negative articles, and you can use the above information to respond to them. Many articles are US-based as it's an American service but the same advice applies.
Achieving media coverage for your event
Generating positive media coverage of your event is something you need to aim for, as it’s the most effective way of broadcasting these key messages:
- Vegans enjoy a wide variety of foods, including vegan versions of pretty much everything non-vegans eat
- Veganism benefits the animals, the environment and our health
- Everyone can be vegan or at least take steps towards this lifestyle
- Those intested in learning more should download The Vegan Society's free VeGuide app.
If the target audience for your event is the general public or schools, any media that are local to the event will likely be more interested in covering it. For example, a local newspaper may wish to write about a vegan fair happening in their area or talk to a local vegan about their motivations and experiences. If you're holding your event at a local school or a big company important to the local economy, they may be interested in speaking to you as well as the headteacher/company director. You should let everyone know press is invited.
Remember that media interviews about positive local events tend to be friendly and journalists are genuinely curious about your reasons for being vegan and how this lifestyle has become more popular in the recent years. There's nothing to worry about and we have you covered with these handy tips.
Preparing a contacts list
Informing the press in advance is crucial if you want them to attend on the day. Start preparation at least 4 months ahead, if possible. Monthly magazines work several months ahead (3-4 is not unusual); weekly newspapers need 3-4 weeks’ notice; daily newspapers will benefit from at least a week’s notice; and local radio and TV stations approximately a week's notice too. Your press release needs to be send to these outlets in time.
You might already be aware of many of your local media outlets. Local Media Works allows you to search for regional and local newspapers by area. Compile a contacts list to send your press release to nearer the time. Make sure you include local interest websites and bloggers too - some of them have big reach and an engaged readership. Why not include local YouTubers or Instagrammers?
Check to see whether your local radio station has an online submission form for you to submit your event so it's listed on their website. Research all the ‘what’s on’ and ‘events' listing websites in your area.
If you are organising a large event - or if there's a strong news angle to your story - your regional TV news programme may be interested in covering the event. Call the station about 2-3 weeks before the event and ask for the programme’s ‘forward planning’ email address and email them the details of your event.
Writing a press release
The press release is the journalist's introduction to a story and it needs to stand out from all the other news items that are being received by the news room all the time. Things that can make a press release stand out include facts and figures, unusual stories and human interest stories that people can relate to. Make sure to include information about photo opportunities - for example, if the school headteacher is available for photographs and interviews.
You can prepare your press release in advance. There are plenty of guides online on how to write a good press release but here are some key tips:
- Try to keep to one side of A4. Include the word "IMMEDIATE" and the date of the release at the top. Only use an embargo (a request not to publish until a certain date) if the item is very time sensitive such as the release of new research or information to be announced at a press conference.
- Make sure you start with the most important information and work your way down to include more details. Your very first few sentences should answer: what, when, who, where, why, how - e.g. Organisers (who) anticipate the biggest ever vegan festival (what) will take place this Sunday (when) at ExCeL London (where)... and so on.
- Don’t worry about trying to write a clever headline - that is the journalist’s and editor’s job. The title of your release just needs to describe what the release is about as clearly and concisely as possible.
- Draft a snappy quote to include in the release. This can be your own or ideally from someone who is involved in the event itself. Journalists use quotes verbatim in their articles – this is your chance to include the most important information as that is the only part of the press release the journalists cannot rewrite. Make sure it's positive and powerful.
- Write 'Ends' at the end of the release. Underneath provide the contact details of the person the press can contact about the release. Provide as many ways of contact as possible: email, landline, mobile. Contact details for the public to find out about an event should be given in the body of the press release.
- A 'Note to Editors' after the main text can expand on information in the body of the release. The background of your group, the history of the event, the availability of photographs of past events might all be included in this section.
Once ready, send out your press release at the right time to the right outlet, as specified above.
It's best to call your local media in the week of your event - ideally two or three days before - to check they have the press release and to find out whether anyone plans to attend. This way you can re-send the release if it hasn’t been received. Don't forget to mention any photo opportunities.
Be aware that most local and regional newspapers will no longer send a journalist out to an event unless it is very high profile ‘hard news’. Many newspapers have very few staff photographers and it may be best for you to arrange to take your own photographs and send them to the newspaper. Most local radio stations will prefer a telephone interview or will invite you into the studio rather than send someone along.
Print and online publications may contact you asking for more quotes for their written pieces. If possible, ask them to put the questions into an email and promise to write detailed answers - this is to make sure you are not misquoted. Make sure you answer the email right away as journalists are on tight deadlines.
Identify a key message to get across and say it positively, passionately and friendly (but without sounding overly emotional as people do switch off if they see this). Don’t buy into the controversy that the media like to print - you can make a powerful statement without using negative or judgmental language.
Radio and TV interviews
The media love speaking to people so make sure someone on your team is prepared to speak to journalists. If you are putting forward another organiser make sure that they are fully briefed about the reasons behind the event. Remember that the journalist will come along to your event to cover a positive news story - but if veganism has recently received some bad publicity the journalist may ask you about it.
Be aware that many local and regional newspapers no longer send out journalists to cover stories on a regular basis. Most events will be covered by a photographer (or no-one at all) and the journalist will write the story from the press release, emails and telephone interviews with the organiser(s).
If you're lucky enough to bag an interview, we have some useful tips for you to keep in mind.
Essentially, keep your answers simple and to the point when being interviewed. Be enthusiastic and explain why the event has been organised and what you hope people attending will get out of it. The journalist will also probably want to speak to someone attending the event. Try to secure contacts who would be prepared to speak to the press about their experience and transition to veganism.
After the event
Email any journalists who came along to the event thanking them for attending and/or for any subsequent successful coverage. A local journalist is always a useful contact, so cultivate such relationships, allowing you to contact them again in the future.
Send out a follow-up press release to everyone else on your original list, but this time make sure to include high resolution images. Slightly rewrite the press release, changing it into past tense and amending the quote(s) so that it positively reflects on the event. Send this out ideally right after the event, or the next day at the latest.